Air Pollutants and Greenhouse Gases

Shaodan Huang, Shaojie Song, Chris P. Nielsen, Yuqiang Zhang, Jianyin Xiong, Louise B. Weschler, Shaodong Xie, and Jing Li. 2022. “Residential building materials: An important source of ambient formaldehyde in mainland China.” Environment International, 158, January, Pp. 106909. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This study investigates the contribution of formaldehyde from residential building materials to ambient air in mainland China. Based on 265 indoor field tests in 9 provinces, we estimate that indoor residential sources are responsible for 6.66% of the total anthropogenic formaldehyde in China’s ambient air (range for 31 provinces: 1.88–18.79%). Residential building materials rank 6th among 81 anthropogenic sources (range: 2nd–10th for 31 provinces). Emission intensities show large spatial variability between and within regions due to different residential densities, emission characteristics of building materials, and indoor thermal conditions. Our findings indicate that formaldehyde from the indoor environment is a significant source of ambient formaldehyde, especially in urban areas. This study will help to more accurately evaluate exposure to ambient formaldehyde and its related pollutants, and will assist in formulating policies to protect air quality and public health.
Peter Sherman, Shaojie Song, Xinyu Chen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Projected changes in wind power potential over China and India in high resolution climate models.” Environmental Research Letters, 16, 3. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As more countries commit to emissions reductions by midcentury to curb anthropogenic climate change, decarbonization of the electricity sector becomes a first-order task in reaching this goal. Renewables, particularly wind and solar power, will be predominant components of this transition. How availability of the wind and solar resource will change in the future in response to regional climate changes is an important and underdiscussed topic of the decarbonization process. Here, we study changes in potential for wind power in China and India, evaluating prospectively until the year 2060. To do this, we study a downscaled, high-resolution multimodel ensemble of CMIP5 models under high and low emissions scenarios. While there is some intermodel variability, we find that spatial changes are generally consistent across models, with decreases of up to 965 (a 1% change) and 186 TWh (a 2% change) in annual electricity generation potential for China and India, respectively. Compensating for the declining resource are weakened seasonal and diurnal variabilities, allowing for easier large-scale wind power integration. We conclude that while the ensemble indicates available wind resource over China and India will decline slightly in the future, there remains enormous potential for significant wind power expansion, which must play a major role in carbon neutral aspirations.
Meng Gao, Zirui Liu, Bo Zheng, Dongsheng Ji, Peter Sherman, Shaojie Song, Jinyuan Xin, Cheng Liu, Yuesi Wang, Qiang Zhang, Jia Xing, Jingkun Jiang, Zifa Wang, Gregory R. Carmichael, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “China's emission control strategies have suppressed unfavorable influences of climate on wintertime PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing since 2002.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 20, 3, Pp. 1497–1505. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Severe wintertime PM2.5 pollution in Beijing has been receiving increasing worldwide attention, yet the decadal variations remain relatively unexplored. Combining field measurements and model simulations, we quantified the relative influences of anthropogenic emissions and meteorological conditions on PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing over the winters of 2002–2016. Between the winters of 2011 and 2016, stringent emission control measures resulted in a 21 % decrease in mean mass concentrations of PM2.5 in Beijing, with 7 fewer haze days per winter on average. Given the overestimation of PM2.5 by the model, the effectiveness of stringent emission control measures might have been slightly overstated. With fixed emissions, meteorological conditions over the study period would have led to an increase in haze in Beijing, but the strict emission control measures have suppressed the unfavorable influences of the recent climate. The unfavorable meteorological conditions are attributed to the weakening of the East Asia winter monsoon associated particularly with an increase in pressure associated with the Aleutian Low.
X. Lu, L. Zhang, T. Wu, M. S. Long, J. Wang, D.J. Jacob, F. Zhang, J. Zhang, S. D. Eastham, L. Hu, L. Zhu, X. Liu, and M Wei. 2020. “Development of the global atmospheric general circulation-chemistry model BCC-GEOS-Chem v1.0: model description and evaluation.” Geoscientific Model Development, 13, 9, Pp. 3817–3838. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Chemistry plays an indispensable role in investigations of the atmosphere; however, many climate models either ignore or greatly simplify atmospheric chemistry, limiting both their accuracy and their scope. We present the development and evaluation of the online global atmospheric chemical model BCC-GEOS-Chem v1.0, coupling the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model (CTM) as an atmospheric chemistry component in the Beijing Climate Center atmospheric general circulation model (BCC-AGCM). The GEOS-Chem atmospheric chemistry component includes detailed troposphericHOx–NOx–volatile organic compounds–ozone–bromine–aerosol chemistry and online dry and wet deposition schemes. We then demonstrate the new capabilities of BCC-GEOS-Chem v1.0 relative to the base BCC-AGCM model through a 3-year (2012–2014) simulation with anthropogenic emissions from the Community Emissions Data System (CEDS) used in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6). The model captures well the spatial distributions and seasonal variations in tropospheric ozone, with seasonal mean biases of 0.4–2.2 ppbv at 700–400 hPa compared to satellite observations and within 10 ppbv at the surface to 500 hPa compared to global ozonesonde observations. The model has larger high-ozone biases over the tropics which we attribute to an overestimate of ozone chemical production. It underestimates ozone in the upper troposphere which is likely due either to the use of a simplified stratospheric ozone scheme or to biases in estimated stratosphere–troposphere exchange dynamics. The model diagnoses the global tropospheric ozone burden, OH concentration, and methane chemical lifetime to be 336 Tg, 1.16×106 molecule cm−3, and 8.3 years, respectively, which is consistent with recent multimodel assessments. The spatiotemporal distributions of NO2, CO, SO2, CH2O, and aerosol optical depth are generally in agreement with satellite observations. The development of BCC-GEOS-Chem v1.0 represents an important step for the development of fully coupled earth system models (ESMs) in China.
Haikun Wang, Xiaojing He, Xinyu Liang, Ernani F. Choma, Yifan Liu, Li Shan, Haotian Zheng, Shaojun Zhang, Chris P. Nielsen, Shuxiao Wang, Ye Wu, and John S. Evans. 2020. “Health benefits of on-road transportation pollution control programs in China.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sept 2020, 201921271. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China started to implement comprehensive measures to mitigate traffic pollution at the end of 1990s, but the comprehensive effects, especially on ambient air quality and public health, have not yet been systematically evaluated. In this study, we analyze the effects of vehicle emission control measures on ambient air pollution and associated deaths attributable to long-term exposures of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and O3 based on an integrated research framework that combines scenario analysis, air quality modeling, and population health risk assessment. We find that the total impact of these control measures was substantial. Vehicular emissions during 1998–2015 would have been 2–3 times as large as they actually were, had those measures not been implemented. The national population-weighted annual average concentrations of PM2.5 and O3 in 2015 would have been higher by 11.7 μg/m3 and 8.3 parts per billion, respectively, and the number of deaths attributable to 2015 air pollution would have been higher by 510 thousand (95% confidence interval: 360 thousand to 730 thousand) without these controls. Our analysis shows a concentration of mortality impacts in densely populated urban areas, motivating local policymakers to design stringent vehicle emission control policies. The results imply that vehicle emission control will require policy designs that are more multifaceted than traditional controls, primarily represented by the strict emission standards, with careful consideration of the challenges in coordinated mitigation of both PM2.5 and O3 in different regions, to sustain improvement in air quality and public health given continuing swift growth in China’s vehicle population.
Qing Yang, Hewen Zhou, Pietro Bartocci, Francesco Fantozzi, Ondřej Mašek, Foster Agblevor, Zhiyu Wei, Haiping Yang, Hanping Chen, Xi Lu, Guoqing Chen, Chuguang Zheng, Chris P. Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Prospective contributions of biomass pyrolysis to China’s 2050 carbon reduction and renewable energy goals.” Nature Communications. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Deployment of negative emission technologies needs to start immediately if we are to avoid overshooting international carbon targets, reduce negative climate impacts, and minimize costs of emission mitigation. Actions in China, given its importance for the global anthropogenic carbon budget, can be decisive. While bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) may need years to mature, this study focuses on developing a ready-to-implement biomass intermediate pyrolysis poly-generation (BIPP) technology to produce a potentially stable form of biochar, a medium for carbon storage, and to provide a significant source of valuable biofuels, especially pyrolysis gas. Combining the experimental data with hybrid models, the results show that a BIPP system can be profitable without subsidies: its national deployment could contribute to a 68% reduction of carbon emissions per unit of GDP in 2030 compared to 2005 and could result additionally in a reduction in air pollutant emissions. With 73% of national crop residues converted to biochar and other biofuels in the near term (2020 to 2030), the cumulative greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction could reach up to 5653 Mt CO2-eq by 2050, which could contribute 9-20% of the global GHG emission reduction goal for BECCS (28-65 Gt CO2-eq in IPCC’s 1.5 °C pathway), and nearly 2633 Mt more than that projected for BECCS alone. The national BIPP development strategy is developed on a provincial scale based on a regional economic and life-cycle analysis. 
Meng Gao, Jinhui Gao, Bin Zhu, Rajesh Kumar, Xiao Lu, Shaojie Song, Yuzhong Zhang, Beixi Jia, Peng Wang, Gufran Beig, Jianlin Hu, Qi Ying, Hongliang Zhang, Peter Sherman, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “Ozone pollution over China and India: seasonality and sources.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 20, 7, Pp. 4399-4414. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A regional fully coupled meteorology–chemistry model, Weather Research and Forecasting model with Chemistry (WRF-Chem), was employed to study the seasonality of ozone (O3) pollution and its sources in both China and India. Observations and model results suggest that O3 in the North China Plain (NCP), Yangtze River Delta (YRD), Pearl River Delta (PRD), and India exhibit distinctive seasonal features, which are linked to the influence of summer monsoons. Through a factor separation approach, we examined the sensitivity of O3 to individual anthropogenic, biogenic, and biomass burning emissions. We found that summer O3 formation in China is more sensitive to industrial and biogenic sources than to other source sectors, while the transportation and biogenic sources are more important in all seasons for India. Tagged simulations suggest that local sources play an important role in the formation of the summer O3 peak in the NCP, but sources from Northwest China should not be neglected to control summer O3 in the NCP. For the YRD region, prevailing winds and cleaner air from the ocean in summer lead to reduced transport from polluted regions, and the major source region in addition to local sources is Southeast China. For the PRD region, the upwind region is replaced by contributions from polluted PRD as autumn approaches, leading to an autumn peak. The major upwind regions in autumn for the PRD are YRD (11 %) and Southeast China (10 %). For India, sources in North India are more important than sources in the south. These analyses emphasize the relative importance of source sectors and regions as they change with seasons, providing important implications for O3 control strategies.
Peter Sherman, Eli Tziperman, Clara Deser, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “Historical and future roles of internal atmospheric variability in modulating summertime Greenland Ice Sheet melt.” Geophysical Research Letters, 47, 6. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Understanding how internal atmospheric variability affects Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) summertime melting would improve understanding of future sea level rise. We analyze the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble (CESM‐LE) over 1951‐2000 and 2051‐2100. We find that internal variability dominates the forced response on short timescales (~20 years) and that the area impacted by internal variability grows in the future, connecting internal variability and climate change. Unlike prior studies, we do not assume specific patterns of internal variability to affect GrIS melting, but derive them from Maximum Covariance Analysis. We find that the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is the major source of internal atmospheric variability associated with GrIS melt conditions in CESM‐LE and reanalysis, with the positive phase (NAO+) linked to widespread cooling over the ice sheet. CESM‐LE and CMIP5 project an increase in the frequency of NAO+ events, suggesting a negative feedback to the GrIS under future climate change.
Xueli Zhao, Xiaofang Wu, Chenghe Guan, Rong Ma, Chris P. Nielsen, and Bo Zhang. 2020. “Linking agricultural GHG emissions to global trade network.” Earth's Future, 8, 3. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As part of the climate policy to meet the 2‐degrees Celsius (2 °C) target, actions in all economic sectors, including agriculture, are required to mitigate global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While there has been an ever‐increasing focus on agricultural greenhouse gas (AGHG) emissions, limited attention has been paid to their economic drivers in the globalized world economy and related mitigation potentials. This paper makes a first attempt to trace AGHG emissions via global trade networks using a multi‐regional input‐output model and a complex network model. Over one third of global AGHG emissions in 2012 can be linked with products traded internationally, of which intermediate trade and final trade contribute 64.2% and 35.8%, respectively. Japan, the USA, Germany, the UK, and Hong Kong are the world's five largest net importers of embodied emissions, while Ethiopia, Australia, Pakistan, India and Argentina are the five largest net exporters. Some hunger‐afflicted developing countries in Asia and Africa are important embodied emission exporters, due to their large‐scale exports of agricultural products. Trade‐related virtual AGHG emission transfers shape a highly heterogenous network, due to the coexistence of numerous peripheral economies and a few highly‐connected hub economies. The network clustering structure is revealed by the regional integration of several trading communities, while hub economies are collectors and distributors in the global trade network, with important implications for emission mitigation. Achieving AGHG emission reduction calls for a combination of supply‐ and demand‐side policies covering the global trade network.
Archana Dayalu, J. William Munger, Yuxuan Wang, Yu Zhao, Thomas Nehrkorn, Chris P. Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, and Rachel Chang. 2020. “Evaluating China's anthropogenic CO2 emissions inventories: a northern China case study using continuous surface observations from 2005 to 2009.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China has pledged reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 60 %–65 % relative to 2005 levels, and to peak carbon emissions overall by 2030. However, the lack of observational data and disagreement among the many available inventories makes it difficult for China to track progress toward these goals and evaluate the efficacy of control measures. To demonstrate the value of atmospheric observations for constraining CO2 inventories we track the ability of CO2 concentrations predicted from three different CO2 inventories to match a unique multi-year continuous record of atmospheric CO2. Our analysis time window includes the key commitment period for the Paris Agreement (2005) and the Beijing Olympics (2008). One inventory is China-specific and two are spatial subsets of global inventories. The inventories differ in spatial resolution, basis in national or subnational statistics, and reliance on global or China-specific emission factors. We use a unique set of historical atmospheric observations from 2005 to 2009 to evaluate the three CO2 emissions inventories within China's heavily industrialized and populated northern region accounting for ∼33 %–41 % of national emissions. Each anthropogenic inventory is combined with estimates of biogenic CO2 within a high-resolution atmospheric transport framework to model the time series of CO2 observations. To convert the model–observation mismatch from mixing ratio to mass emission rates we distribute it over a region encompassing 90 % of the total surface influence in seasonal (annual) averaged back-trajectory footprints (L_0.90 region). The L_0.90 region roughly corresponds to northern China. Except for the peak growing season, where assessment of anthropogenic emissions is entangled with the strong vegetation signal, we find the China-specific inventory based on subnational data and domestic field studies agrees significantly better with observations than the global inventories at all timescales. Averaged over the study time period, the unscaled China-specific inventory reports substantially larger annual emissions for northern China (30 %) and China as a whole (20 %) than the two unscaled global inventories. Our results, exploiting a robust time series of continuous observations, lend support to the rates and geographic distribution in the China-specific inventory Though even long-term observations at a single site reveal differences among inventories, exploring inventory discrepancy over all of China requires a denser observational network in future efforts to measure and verify CO2 emissions for China both regionally and nationally. We find that carbon intensity in the northern China region has decreased by 47 % from 2005 to 2009, from approximately 4 kg of CO2 per USD (note that all references to USD in this paper refer to USD adjusted for purchasing power parity, PPP) in 2005 to about 2 kg of CO2 per USD in 2009 (Fig. 9c). However, the corresponding 18 % increase in absolute emissions over the same time period affirms a critical point that carbon intensity targets in emerging economies can be at odds with making real climate progress. Our results provide an important quantification of model–observation mismatch, supporting the increased use and development of China-specific inventories in tracking China's progress as a whole towards reducing emissions. We emphasize that this work presents a methodology for extending the analysis to other inventories and is intended to be a comparison of a subset of anthropogenic CO2 emissions rates from inventories that were readily available at the time this research began. For this study's analysis time period, there was not enough spatially distinct observational data to conduct an optimization of the inventories. The primary intent of the comparisons presented here is not to judge specific inventories, but to demonstrate that even a single site with a long record of high-time-resolution observations can identify major differences among inventories that manifest as biases in the model–data comparison. This study provides a baseline analysis for evaluating emissions from a small but important region within China, as well a guide for determining optimal locations for future ground-based measurement sites.
Meng Gao, Zirui Liu, Bo Zheng, Dongsheng Ji, Peter Sherman, Shaojie Song, Jinyuan Xin, Cheng Liu, Yuesi Wang, Qiang Zhang, Jia Xing, Jingkun Jiang, Zifa Wang, Gregory R. Carmichael, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “China's emission control strategies have suppressed unfavorable influences of climate on wintertime PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing since 2002.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 20, 3, Pp. 1497-1505. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Severe wintertime PM2.5 pollution in Beijing has been receiving increasing worldwide attention, yet the decadal variations remain relatively unexplored. Combining field measurements and model simulations, we quantified the relative influences of anthropogenic emissions and meteorological conditions on PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing over the winters of 2002–2016. Between the winters of 2011 and 2016, stringent emission control measures resulted in a 21 % decrease in mean mass concentrations of PM2.5 in Beijing, with 7 fewer haze days per winter on average. Given the overestimation of PM2.5 by the model, the effectiveness of stringent emission control measures might have been slightly overstated. With fixed emissions, meteorological conditions over the study period would have led to an increase in haze in Beijing, but the strict emission control measures have suppressed the unfavorable influences of the recent climate. The unfavorable meteorological conditions are attributed to the weakening of the East Asia winter monsoon associated particularly with an increase in pressure associated with the Aleutian Low.
S.J. Song, M. Gao, W.Q. Xu, Y.L. Sun, D.R. Worsnop, J.T. Jayne, Y.Z. Zhang, L. Zhu, M. Li, Z. Zhou, C.L. Cheng, Y.B. Lv, Y. Wang, W. Peng, X.B. Xu, N. Lin, Y.X. Wang, S.X. Wang, J. W. Munger, D. Jacob, and M.B. McElroy. 2019. “Possible heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) chemistry in northern China winter haze and implications for rapid sulfate formation.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 19, Pp. 1357-1371. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The chemical mechanisms responsible for rapid sulfate production, an important driver of winter haze formation in northern China, remain unclear. Here, we propose a potentially important heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) chemical mechanism. Through analyzing field measurements with aerosol mass spectrometry, we show evidence for a possible significant existence in haze aerosols of organosulfur primarily as HMS, misidentified as sulfate in previous observations. We estimate that HMS can account for up to about one-third of the sulfate concentrations unexplained by current air quality models. Heterogeneous production of HMS by SO2 and formaldehyde is favored under northern China winter haze conditions due to high aerosol water content, moderately acidic pH values, high gaseous precursor levels, and low temperature. These analyses identify an unappreciated importance of formaldehyde in secondary aerosol formation and call for more research on sources and on the chemistry of formaldehyde in northern China winter.

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